Born in post-war Vienna, the city in which SigmundFreud once lived (whose former working room isjust one courtyard away from my institute), I studiedin Beijing from 1974 to 75 and worked in a People’sCommune and a steel factory. As a sinologist and Austrian Directorof the Confucius Institute at the University of Vienna, I havestudied Zhuangzi’s famous “Butterfly Dream” and witnessedChina’s breathtaking development since the final phase of the“cultural revolution.”
In our globalizing world with rapidly growing interdependencies,pure intercultural communication alone is not enough. Basedon understanding one’s own culture, it is increasingly necessary tolearn and understand other cultures. Facing one’s own history andthe present state of society, the establishment of a world communitythat is ethically entitled to live on this tiny, vulnerable planetin the never ending universe, should be the “Shared Dream ofHumankind”, in which all the dreams of individuals, of nations, ofphilosophers and of “ordinary people” find space and respect. Theglobal communication structures provide the technical equipment.It is the duty of nations and the political elites in all parts of theworld to optimize the networks for the benefit of the whole in accordancewith the necessities and benefits of its particular entities,or to formulate it the other way round: to bring forth the developmentof a nation by creating a win-win situation for global development.The question is: how to share resources today and how tosave resources for future generations. Win-win situations can onlybe achieved in a peaceful environment. The traditional Chineseconcept of a holistic view of things and an approach that considersthe body as more than the sum of its parts may be a methodologicalperspective to face the numerous contradictions humankind isconfronted with today.
China’s role in our era, after its power and glory in past millennia,after its humiliation in the 19th century, after its painfulexperiences in the 20th century with its fundamental self-reflectionson its own culture — from negation to affirmation — is still goingto find its positioning in the global arena, causing admiration anduneasiness, both in China itself as well as in the outside world. Ifit is the common aim of humankind to establish an internationalenvironment based on rationality and mutual respect — facing the past, managing the present, and safeguarding the living conditionsfor the future — the contribution of China might be a great oneindeed, not only due to its vast population, but due to its heritagein wisdom and cultural achievements. The legacy of a nation is notonly written in books or stored in digital archives. The commonknowledge and cultural memory shared by a community includesthe lofty achievements as well as the memory of catastrophes anderrors. An international community that aims for win-win situationsmust join in international and intercultural education schemes thatgo far beyond present dimensions, must inspire the youngest to realizewhat it means to exist on this earth — be it in China, in Europeor elsewhere, must bring enthusiasm to the population to appreciatethe material and immaterial world, must enable individuals to havevisions and imaginations, must lead people to find the right balancebetween idealism and realism. Then, dreams — Chinese, American,local and global ones — will not just be Freudian dreams or evennightmares but creative contributions towards a world dialogue, adialogue between nations, cultures and individuals.